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Encyclopedia Dubuque



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View of Jackson Park from North Main. Photo courtesy: National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium
JACKSON PARK. Dubuque's first designated cemetery. The area now known as Jackson Park was used as a cemetery beginning with the early settlement in 1833. The site soon posed a problem. As early as November 18, 1837, a conflict of certain streets with the graveyard was reported and considered. During a CHOLERA outbreak in the summer of 1852, demands for a new burial site led to the cemetery being condemned. On March 13, 1856 all persons having friends buried in the old cemetery were requested to remove them to LINWOOD CEMETERY. (1) In 1858 tombstones were removed, the remaining graves were excavated. and the remains taken to Linwood.
1869 grading of the property. Photo courtesy: National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium

Jesse P. FARLEY and others petitioned to have the old cemetery converted into a public park. The first efforts to reestablish the area into a natural setting were not completely successful. Skeletons occasionally washed to the surface after heavy rains. In 1869 under contract with the council William REBMAN graded down, leveled and planted with trees the old cemetery now called Jackson park. On July 5, 1869, the Daily Times reported that thoughtless boys were allowed to play 'shinny' with leg bones pulled from piles left by renovation efforts.

Pagoda with steep steps in seen among the trees of Jackson Park. Photo courtesy: National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium

To improve Jackson Square a music stand or pagoda in the park similar to the one planned for Washington Square was constructed in 1877. Heer and Naesher won the contract for the $150 building project. Ten people donated funds. The stairs on the pagoda were steep and without railings. Presidential candidate James G. Blaine declined to use the Jackson Park pagoda for a speech in late 1878. Instead he used an A. A. Cooper wagon bed. The newspapers chuckled that a Republican had stood on a “Democratic platform” to give his speech. The pagoda was available for band use only and sitting in it was prohibited.

The pagoda, dedicated by Congressman David B. HENDERSON, was an immediate favorite of the neighborhood. Due to neglect, however, the structure lasted only twenty years before it was torn down and sold for scrap. A memorial fountain to honor Judge Benjamin William LACY was added to the park in 1913.

This monument in Jackson Park showing Potosa was part of a fountain given in 1913 to Judge Benjamin Lacy by his three sons. Photo courtesy: http://dubuque-tour.tripod.com/
The grave stone erected in 1996.
Photo courtesy: Bob Reding

At Linwood a common grave was created. On September 1, 1996 during Iowa's sesquicentennial a marker was dedicated to these unknown pioneer citizens. The inscription reads:

           Unknown but not Forgotten. Buried on this 
           hillside are the remains of unknown pioneer 
           citizens of Dubuque. Bodies exhumed from the 
           area of Dubuque now known as Jackson Park were 
           re-interred at this site in 1867. This marker 
           was dedicated September 1, 1996 in the 
           sesquicentennial year for the great State of Iowa 
           to honor these unknown pioneer citizens of Dubuque 
           - Iowa's first city.
Photo courtesy: Cathy's Treasures, 156 Main, Dubuque



1. Oldt, Franklin T. History of Dubuque County, Iowa. Chicago: Western Historical Company, 1880. http://www.ebooksread.com/authors-eng/franklin-t-oldt/history-of-dubuque-county-iowa-being-a-general-survey-of-dubuque-county-histor-tdl/page-13-history-of-dubuque-county-iowa-being-a-general-survey-of-dubuque-county-histor-tdl.shtml

Jacobsen, James E. Jackson Park Historic District Phase IV District Report, 2003